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Pandemic nudges New Zealanders to give more and make wills

New Zealanders have upped their generosity during the pandemic and are more likely to give and to create a will, a new survey shows.

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Photo: 123rf

More than 3000 people were surveyed over the past two years, and the results show more cash was donated and more people have left money to charity in their will.

The findings are part of a two-year partnership between the Fundraising Institute and estate planners Perpetual Guardian.

Fundraising Institute executive director Michelle Berriman said the pandemic had made people realise the hardship some New Zealand families face.

Donations through the Givealittle fundraising website saw a 35.7 percent increase in donations year on year to 2021.

Donations to disability, mental health, and environmental causes increased, "alongside the usual favourites, being animals, medical research, and social services," the report authors said.

Mikaere Clarkson-Steele of social enterprise NUKU sorts donations at Shop Zero, to support those affected by the flooding.
Mikaere Clarkson-Steele of social enterprise NUKU sorting donations to help those affected by flooding in Westport earlier this year. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

The pandemic had spurred people to get down to thinking about practicalities, and to plan for worst-case-scenarios, Berriman said.

"It's definitely made inequality and disadvantage more obvious to people, and we know through our survey that people are much more aware that the number of people ... struggling to make ends meet has become much greater during the pandemic," Berriman said.

The Fred Hollows Charity, which provides surgery and treatment to restore people's vision in the Pacific told the researchers donated money often pays off many-fold in the number of people it can help.

When its services treat people whose sight is restored or vision loss is slowed there was often someone else or a group whose lives had been significantly altered to meet the needs for caring for the affected patient.

"A gift means more people can return to work or school, so they can build a better future for themselves, their families, and their community."

Pictured with a sample of the drums of essential items are (from left) area police commander Inspector Sam Aberahama, East Coast MP and Cabinet Minister Kiri Allan, organisers Pauli and Seini Ma’afu, Ikaroa Rawhiti MP and Minister Meka Whaitiri and organiser Mele Ma’afu Sinoti.
Many New Zealanders took part in fundraising campaigns for Tonga after an eruption dusted much of the country with ash in January. Photo: Paul Rickard/Gisborne Herald via LDR

About 83,000 people are estimated to have made wills during the survey period, reducing the number of New Zealanders yet to make one from 47 percent to 45 percent.

About six percent of those surveyed said they had made directions in their will to leave money for charity, while another 21 percent said they intend to do this.

Gifts left as part of wills are on average about $5000, but the biggest the survey came across was one of $102 million.

The increase in will making during the pandemic reflected international trends, including overseas research that has shown the threat of Covid-19 meant people realised death was "more real" for them, the study authors said.

Perpetual Guardian chief executive Patrick Gamble said the increase in giving was "stunning".

However he issued a warning that too many New Zealanders were dying without a will in place, which could result in difficulty for loved ones left behind.

"We know that approximately 1500 people a year die without a will, and while the [current] trend is upwards in terms of people getting their house in order, having half of the ... population unprotected by a will is a startling realisation.

"Making a will is the single most effective, accessible and straightforward way to ensure your wishes are honoured, including guardianship orders for minor children.

"The power of leaving a gift to charity in your will is significant, and in order for that gift to be the most effective and powerful, having an independent and professional trustee that understands the charity sector ... can make a real difference to the long-term impact of that gift."